Guinn Stell Fetner
Guinn Stell Fetner
  • April 25, 1929 - January 5, 2018
  • Plano, Texas

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Guinn Stell "Curly" Fetner was born in Randolph County, Alabama, on April 25, 1929. He was the middle child in a family of 7 children born to Joseph Bryan Fetner and Irene Heflin Fetner. Ahead of him in birth order were Ella Mae, Charles Wyatt, and Rena Jo. His younger siblings were Handley Virgil (Flat Top), Martha (Mot), and Robert Klein (Shiny). He and most of his siblings were called by their middle name, and/or or by a nickname bestowed by their maternal grandfather. His nickname was "Curly", because "he was such a pretty, curly headed boy", according to his many doting aunts. "Pop", the grandfather who gave nicknames, also taught him to memorize the poem "The Boy Reciter", by David Everett, which became a family tradition for his own children and grandchildren.

Stell/Curly grew up on a farm midway between Roanoke, AL and Wadley, AL. The Fetners were among the last generation of Americans to live self sufficiently through farming. They lived off of their own vegetables, meat, fruit. and cash crops, and built by hand the barn, furniture and much of the machinery they needed to keep the farm going through the Great Depression. Randolph County was home to their larger extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, who provided each other with love, support of all kinds, and fun. Hunting, fishing, and summer days at the Heflin family camp on the Tallapoosa River were the foundation of a lifelong multigenerational bond that has held the family together throughout the 20th, and into the 21st century. As a boy, Stell/Curly had a bicycle to travel the seven miles between the farm, and either Roanoke, in one direction, or Wadley, in the other. During one trip, he was so charmed by a grey tabby cat that followed him that he picked the cat up aand carried it back to the farm in the bicycle's basket. He named the cat Bicycle, and she honored him by having kittens at the foot of his bed. When the bicycle wasn't available, he would run the miles to town, and his memories of those runs sparked his interest in long distance running in the 1980's. As an older teenage, he drove the school bus for Handley High School to earn money, played varsity football, and graduated in 1945.

World War 2 pulled the Fetners, and all Americans, out of familiar family routines. Wyatt left to join the Marine Corps, Rena Jo to nursing school, and Stell to two tours of duty with the US Navy between 1947 and 1955. He began to be known in the wider world by his first name, Guinn. He was an Electronics Technician aboard the USS Palau, the USS Arcadia, and the USS Knapp. He often reminisced about his two round-the-world trips, and about his ship's participation in Exercise Mainbrace, one of the earliest NATO joint activities. He stood guard duty during a riot in Havana, smoked fresh Cuban cigars, then, on the other side of the world, kept the radar in top form as his ship night-navigated through the sampans of Hong Kong harbor. When on shore leave, he rode bicycles through Japan, Scotland, and Denmark. He was disappointed when he ordered authentic Danish cuisine in Denmark -a smorgasbord-- and discovered that it was cold cuts of sandwich meat. In San Francisco he bought a translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, and memorized it as he traveled across the Pacific Ocean. He often quoted verses from it later in life, and kept the book with him until the day he died. "Invictus" was another favorite poem memorized on board ship. His mother had made him promise never to get a tattoo, and he never did. He also never drank alcohol. He occasionally smoked a cigar-a habit picked up in the Navy- until his young son John scolded him about it, and he never did it again.

Back home after the navy, he tried cotton farming and worked at the local textile mills. The money he earned, along with the GI bill, gave him the means to go to college. He spent several semesters at Auburn University. During that time he met and married the widowed Ava Fulmer Foster, and became the adoptive father to her 4 year old daughter Libby. Their little family went west to Houston, TX, following a path blazed by his Uncles Tom and Dorsey. He got his BA in Education from the University of Houston while working part time for the US Post Office. His and Ava's first child together, Lucy, was born in Houston in 1958. With his degree in education and years of hands on experience designing and building furniture and machinery, Guinn got his first job teaching shop and drafting classes at Highlands High School in San Antonio, TX. He spent nights, summers, and weekends earning his Masters Degree in Education at Southwest Texas State University, San Marcos, and graduated in 1962. He was a devoted high school football fan, and was always at Highlands football games, with Lucy and his old navy binoculars in tow. His son, John Stell Fetner, was born in September, 1964. During summer vacations Guinn worked in home construction for extra money. He entered his Highlands students and their shop projects in interscholastic competitions around San Antonio, and year after year, they swept up all of the awards. Then, in 1965, he was offered a job teaching Industrial Arts at San Antonio College. The one shadow on these years was Libby's death from Hodgkin's Disease in 1965. Guinn-Stell-Curly, now also known as "Fet" to his local friends, taught at San Antonio College for the next 30 years among a supportive and loyal group of colleagues and friends. He never missed an Open House or band concert for Lucy. He coached basketball and baseball teams for John, and helped him raise and wrangle steers and pigs for John's high school agriculture classes. He took up running in the late 1970's and all through the 1980s, trained